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Monday, July 15, 2024

Release the mechanical hounds of war

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In Short:

Robot dogs are being used at various military installations in the US for tasks like security, data computing, and even building 3-D ship models. Some companies have developed weaponized robot dogs, with firearms and flamethrowers, sparking concern and discomfort among the public. The uncanny resemblance to real dogs and their potential for autonomous targeting adds to the unease surrounding these machines.

Robot Dogs Utilized by Various Military Bases

“These dogs will be an extra set of eyes and ears while computing large amounts of data at strategic locations throughout Tyndall Air Force Base,” Major Jordan Criss, 325th Security Forces Squadron commander, said during initial testing in late 2020. “They will be a huge enhancement for our defenders and allow flexibility in the posting and response of our personnel.”

In recent years, robot dogs have been increasingly utilized across various sectors of the US military, extending beyond patrolling sensitive installations. Different military bases have introduced robot dogs for different purposes. For instance, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota introduced robot dogs in July 2023 to help airmen respond to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats safely. Meanwhile, Patrick Space Force Base in Florida incorporated robot dogs into its perimeter security rotation for enhanced detection and alert capabilities. Similarly, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division, announced the deployment of robot dogs for building 3-D ship models aboard decommissioned ships, and the Coast Guard unveiled droid dogs in Hawaii to combat weapons of mass destruction. Airmen at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana also debuted robot dogs for explosive ordnance disposal.

Concerns Surrounding Weaponized Robot Dogs

The notion of weaponized robot dogs has sparked various concerns and discomfort among the public, especially with the introduction of autonomous or semi-autonomous weapon systems capable of independently tracking and identifying targets. Apart from the typical fears associated with such technologies, the appearance of robot dogs has been deemed unsettling, drawing parallels to menacing mechanized canines seen in popular culture references like Black Mirror. The uncanny resemblance to real dogs, combined with their bioinspired design, has contributed to a sense of fear and aversion towards these robotic counterparts.

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